It’s good to talk – but how would you feel about speaking to 50 strangers a day?
For many of us the prospect of approaching dozens of people would fill us with dread.
So imagine how it feels if you go up to someone and literally can’t get your words out.
That’s what life was like for Liam Pogson – who has suffered with a stammer since he was a child.
But Liam’s stammer has now been transformed thanks to an intensive programme that helps sufferers conquer their speech.
A huge part of that is stopping people in the street and striking up a conversation.
For years now, as part of his daily exercises to remain in control of his stammer, Liam, 26, forces himself to talk to 50 strangers.
He will routinely ask people for directions that he doesn’t need or just try and make small talk with people he’s never met.
While some people think he’s trying to sell them something, others will stop and have a word.
Liam, a gym enthusiast from Mirfield who works at the Stadium Fitness Centre in Huddersfield, has spoken out in a bid to get other people suffering with stammers to take action.
He says the McGuire programme he used has been life changing and is urging anyone with a stammer to watch a new ITV documentary next week called School for Stammerers.
“I want people to watch it and then do the McGuire programme,” he said.
“They will learn new ways to speak and new ways to think about their stammering.
“It doesn’t have to ruin your life anymore.
“It’s part of you but it doesn’t have to define you as a person.
“If they do the course they will be in control of their speech for the first time in their life.”
Liam has previously revealed in the Examiner how his stammer had stopped him from enjoying life, particularly during his teenage years.
He developed a way of hiding it and avoided talking or socialising.
But after completing the McGuire programme he was transformed.
“I’m able to be the person I’ve always wanted to be,” he said. “I can show my true personality.
“Before I wasn’t even able to say my name. I went for a job at the stadium and I couldn’t speak.
“Thankfully I still got it even though I couldn’t say a single word.
“The McGuire programme has let me take control of my stammer – it’s a lifestyle and you have to work on it every single day.
“I speak to 50 strangers either on the phone or in the street and I will do every day for the rest of my life.”
School for Stammerers follows the emotional journey of six people trying to overcome their problem.
A lorry driver, a teacher, a pharmacist, a professional photographer, and two school boys all undergo a course that claims it can transform a stammerer’s speech in just four days.
The show airs on ITV 1 on Tuesday, January 9 at 9pm
ORIGINAL INTERVIEW FEATURED IN examiner.co.uk. LINK: http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/west-yorkshire-news/how-talking-50-strangers-day-14106763
As a child Ashley Guerin would do his best not to speak. His stock answer at school was: “I ain’t sure,” and he is sure some teachers assumed he was either ignorant or insolent.
He was neither. Instead he had a severe stammer.
On Tuesday he is part of a documentary following a group of people through an intensive course to help them gain some control over debilitating stammers.
It was a course Ashley first took, aged 17, and which has been part of his life ever since. It also changed his life, enabling the almost silent teenager to become a businessman running his own building company and comfortable talking to strangers, making phone calls and delivering speeches in front of hundreds of people.
“My speech was really bad. I used to struggle with every single word and just tried to avoid speaking altogether. I’d been through all the usual speech therapy and there wasn’t anything that really helped.”
Like most stammerers, Ashley’s speech problems began when he was around three and affected just about every aspect of his life.
“I decided to get a job in IT, even though I hated IT, because I thought I wouldn’t have to talk!”
Now 37, and running his own building construction company from his home near Norwich, he is due to get married in September.
“I thought my stammer meant I would never find a partner,” he admitted. In fact, his stammer helped him find a partner as he met his fiancé, Clairemarie, through the McGuire Programme – a therapy developed by a stammerer (or stutterer – the two words both mean the same) which trains people in a breathing technique to help them speak. Ashley and Clairemaire are both now teachers with the programme.
The initial course is an intensive four-day programme and, once the breathing technique is mastered, includes exercises such as beginning conversations with strangers, learning how to stammer on purpose to overcome anxiety about being unable to speak, and delivering a speech.
Most people then return regularly to keep on top of their stammer. “It isn’t a cure, it’s a technique to control your speech,” said Ashley. “If I stopped attending courses I would struggle. It’s like sport. You have to keep training.”
He admits being disappointed after his first course that there was not a huge, immediate and permanent change. Now he believes the technique has the potential to work for most people – but involves a huge amount of effort. “You have to face all your fears. And every time you stammer, you should try to stop and start speaking again.
“Once you have learnt the technique you have to go out on to the street with a coach and talk to 100 people. You might ask directions, ask the time, tell them you are on a speech course, it’s not what you say that’s important, it’s the fact that you are having to talk to people. The first time I only managed about 14 or 15 people, I was petrified. But once you have signed up it’s a lifetime membership and you can come back again and again.”
Remembering his own fear, as a teenager, Ashley, now an instructor and coach, is well aware of how 13-year-old Riley is feeling during the ITV documentary to be shown on Tuesday.
“When he started he was very, very quiet. I knew what he was going through and he gained so much confidence!” said Ashley.
And although Ashley still has to work hard to keep his stammer under control, he is fluent and fascinating chatting on the phone.
“I don’t try and avoid stuff any more,” he said.
Instead he has travelled to Dubai, the USA, Canada and Mexico to help coach fellow stammerers, as well as dealing with all the interactions of day-to-day life and running Guerin Construction. “A few times you get the odd impatient person, or someone who laughs, but from childhood I’ve had really good friends around me. Years ago I would rather pretend to be stupid than try to speak but now I tell people about how I work on my speech.”
Watch Ashley Guerin taking part in School for Stammering on ITV1 at 9pm on Tuesday, January 9, 2018
The one-off documentary follows the emotionally-charged journey of six people as they attempt to control their stammers and change their lives. A lorry driver, a teacher, a pharmacist, a photographer and two schoolboys take part in the intensive residential four-day course, filmed for the programme. Some go from being unable to speak to giving a speech in front of hundreds of strangers in Trafalgar Square. Ashley Guerin, from Norwich, helps coach 13-year-old Riley, who has stammered all his life. Before starting the course Riley tells viewers he feels like a jigsaw with missing pieces and if the pieces aren’t found, he’s unrepairable, which makes him really sad.
PUBLISHED: 15:06 04 January 2018 | UPDATED: 15:06 04 January 2018
Original Interview featured in Eastern Daily Press: LINK: http://www.edp24.co.uk/going-out/school-for-stammerers-stutter-dave-mcguire-itv-television-1-5343062
Shannen McEwen is my name, I’m from Letterkenny in Co. Donegal and I have had a stammer since I was 3 years old. Growing up, I was controlled by my stammer and it frustrated me to no end as I could not say what I wanted to say. I always tried my best to hide my stammer as I was embarrassed of it and the fear of stammering in front of people had always held me back from even the most simple of speaking situations such as making phone calls, ordering food in a restaurant or asking for a bus ticket home. One of my most feared sounds was the L sound and being from Letterkenny…It was quite awkward to say the least! I would never ask for a bus ticket to Letterkenny, I’d always end up paying more for a ticket to the next town because I was afraid of stammering in front of the driver and other passengers.
Throughout my life I had developed tricks and avoidance behaviours to get my words out and I relied on others to speak for me when I couldn’t. This was how I lived my life up until June 2016. I had just finished my final year at university and I knew I would soon be applying for jobs and attending interviews, which I felt physically sick at the thought of, and that was when I joined the McGuire Programme. I had speech therapy twice as a child and it was only when I joined the programme did I see any improvement in my speech. After I finished my first course I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders, and for the first time in my life I was excited to speak. If you asked anyone what their biggest fear is, most would say spiders or clowns etc. I would say that mine was speaking to people and that is why I joined the programme. I’d let my stammer hold me back all my life and I’d had enough, I wasn’t going to let it hold me back any longer.
The McGuire programme has given me so much confidence in myself. A year ago I couldn’t say my own name or where I was from without stammering and now I can actually say what I want and not hold back. It’s finally given me a voice, a voice that I’ve kept quiet for 23 years because I was too scared to speak. Since joining the programme, I’ve done a radio interview, given presentations and have spoken at the National Stammering Awareness Day which are things that I could not have imagined doing in my wildest dreams before joining the programme. I no longer need to use all the tricks and avoidance behaviours that I had developed over the years to get me through a speaking situation and I am no longer that shy and quiet person in the corner that rarely spoke. The McGuire Programme has given me back my confidence to be the person that I knew I was – I still have my stammer but now I control it, rather than letting it control me.
This year, I became a Primary Coach on the programme which allows to me to give back to the programme as it has opened so many doors for me and I enjoy coaching and helping new students on their journeys towards articulate eloquence.
Our final course in 2017 took place in Belfast from 25th-28th October, where 6 resilient people from all walks of life took part in their first 3 day McGuire Programme intensive course in order to deal with their stutter.
Throughout the course they worked very hard at learning, drilling and practicing both the physical and psychological aspects to stuttering.
During the course, we were honoured to have Niamh Shiells as a guest speaker.
Niamh’s husband, Alistair, is a member of the McGuire Programme since attending his first McGuire Programme course in October 2014, which meant that Niamh had an good insight into stuttering and all that it entails.
She talked about the importance of building ‘resilience’ (both physical and psychological resilience), which included persistence, optimism, having a positive frame of mind, flexibility, taking risks, stepping outside our comfort zone, dealing with the negative internal voice, emotions and much more.
During her workshop, each member of the group took a self-assessment which indicated their current level of resilience in different situations and she explained about things to do to improve resilience in any areas that people scored lower on. They understood the importance of building resilience and its benefit in helping to overcome their stutter.
It was a fantastic workshop with much positive feedback from the whole group. Many thanks Niamh. Check out Niamh’s website: http://www.advancecoach.co.uk/
On the final day of the course, the 6 new members took to the streets of Belfast where they showed admirable resilience in speaking to over 100 strangers and doing their public speech. These are situations where they would have avoided before attending the course.
Our next course is from 21st-24th February 2018 in Dublin.
If you are interested in attending, then apply today:
Do you ever have those dreams where you try to run? No matter how much energy you direct to your legs, no matter the sheer will, you’re capped at a slow amble. Or worst still, frozen. How about those dreams where you’re trying to shout for help? You’re lucky if it comes out as a whisper or a strained squeak. Fear bubbles up in your body, your heart hits your ribcage and you wake up in a cold sweat.
As a person with a stutter, this was a feeling not just isolated to the occasional bad dream, but life every day.
One in 100 people have a stutter, and it affects more men than women. I don’t know the catalyst for it. In family videos, I am pretty fluent up until the age of eight. At that point in your life, other children aren’t as cruel, and you don’t realise that you’re different.
However, as I got older I became more covert, attempting to find weird and wonderful ways to keep it out of earshot. I would walk through what I should say in my head, picking out any keywords I might struggle with and how to get around them. I built up a huge mental thesaurus of words I could substitute when I felt a physical block or freeze come on. When I gave my food order, I would go with the easiest option to say as opposed to what I actually wanted. The dish could change in a split second if I felt any tension. Avoidance of situations and sounds. Something other stutterers can resonate with.
The tricks and avoidance I put myself through got more complex, and frankly ridiculous.
I battled in social and academic situations to appear normal. To simply disclose my stutter was something I would never have dreamt of. As a result, feedback from university presentations was to “not be so nervous“, “relax more“, “have more confidence” and “be more fluent” in my speech. At that time, to only receive criticism referring to the content of a presentation or regular delivery feedback was my goal. I would wince as professors and other students gave feedback. “Don’t mention the stammer”, I thought.
I gave myself a hard time. How could I fail to master something that everybody else took for granted?
I was frustrated at myself and anybody who tried to offer me advice.
I didn’t have the knowledge and the right mentality at the time to own and manage my stutter.
READ MORE THE REST HERE: Talk to the pen!
Written by McGuire Programme member Sarah Maclean-Morris
Severe stammers can steal the voice of a person and badly affect confidence. As International Stammering Day approaches, Chris Webber talks to Jordan Hall, a young man with the condition
IT must have taken real courage for Jordan Hall to stand up on a stage in front of his friends, family, mum and dad, brother and sister, classmates, and try to speak.
But courage wasn’t enough.
Aged 17 this bright lad, full of enthusiasm for his history project about the Crusades, slides at the ready, opened his mouth… and nothing happened.
“I didn’t speak a single word, not one single word left my mouth. My mum was upset. Everything tensed in my throat. They just ended up showing the slides in silence. I felt really low. I think I might have cried when I got home.”
Jordan’s mother, Paula, took action after that night. After all, Jordan’s situation was becoming more urgent. He had a good set of friends at Conyers School, in Yarm, and in his home town of Ingleby Barwick, and – with some NHS-supported speech therapy – had got by okay.
But now university and the world of work, interviews, changing social situations, were on the horizon… and the stammer was getting much worse.
“There’d been a documentary about Gareth Gates, the pop singer, who had a bad stammer, and that’s when we heard about the McGuire programme.”
Six weeks later and Jordan was in Cardiff, about to start the four-day McGuire course, his parents having paid £700. There’s a physical side to the course based on breathing technique, encouraging stammerers to use a different set of muscles to talk.
But, of course, there’s also a psychological side: dealing with the fear and anxiety that make the situation so much worse.
Jordan threw himself into it. In one day he had improved. At this instructors prompting he walked into the street and started to ask people questions, directions, the time, you name it. “It’s something that would just never have occurred to me to do before, it just wouldn’t have crossed my mind to talk to someone on the street like that,” he says.
Then he had to a stand on a soap box and talk to a crowd of random strangers. Jordan was the last of the group to do it. “It was so nerve-wracking,” he says. “Lot’s of us couldn’t say our own names. I really struggled with mine. But that was my first word; ‘Jordan.’ I said it and it was exhilarating. It was an extra-special feeling. Adrenaline was going; everyone was buzzing.”
At the end of the course, everyone had to give a more official speech. Again there were family there. Jordan spoke well. Again his mum cried. This time from happiness.
But it was not the end of the story. The McGuire programme and other, similar, breathing techniques does provide a cure. Jordan must practice. He and other sufferers must push themselves their whole lives just to be able to speak.
Today, Jordan deliberately answers the telephone as part of dealing with his stammer. It is a device he would not go near for a long time. “Telephones are hard. People think you’ve just gone silent, there’s no visual, they don’t know what’s going on.”
Jordan was lucky in that he wasn’t bullied. Teachers were empathetic and helpful. At primary school, he had even managed to narrate a school play. But as he got older and life’s problems became trickier and more stressful, his condition became worse.
For other sufferers, about one per cent of the adult situation (of whom about 80 per cent are men), the lack of a voice can be excruciating and far worse than it was for Jordan. There are tales of bullying, isolation and heartbreaking frustration.
And not everyone can afford to join the course, or more accurately become a member of the McGuire organisation, which today costs £900.
Thankfully, as knowledge of the causes of stammering – there is now strong evidence that stammerers brains are “wired”’ slightly differently, although details are unclear – and there’s better help. An everyday, NHS GP will often refer sufferers to a speech therapist.
Jordan has a clear messages to fellow sufferers: “Do not let it prevent you getting on with your life. Get help. You do have a voice.”